When Johnny Castle asks Baby to tell him her real name, she answers “Frances. For the first woman in the Cabinet,” in reference to Frances Perkins, the 1930s-era Secretary of Labor. The film’s screenwriter, Eleanor Bergstein, was also named after a famous female political figure, Eleanor Roosevelt—and that’s not the only hint that perhaps Baby is a stand-in for Bergstein, who was also nicknamed “Baby,” went to the Catskills and danced. Another option: the real inspiration for the Dirty Dancing story may be someone who only appears in one moment in the movie—during the credits, as a special thanks. Her name is Jackie Horner and, according to interviews conducted by the writer Sue Tabashnik for her book The Fans’ Love Story, her life provided much of the plot. Horner, who spent summers at Grossinger’s Hotel and later worked there as a dance pro, consulted with Bergstein in 1985, prior to filming. Not only did she see the music, dancing and fashions firsthand—she really did bring watermelon when she crashed staff-members’ parties.
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